Friday, November 18, 2011

Purdue 85, Temple 77

[recap] [box score]

Two stories to this one: Lewis Jackson and some really poor officiating that left Temple without 40 percent of its starting lineup for the closing minutes. I'll start with Jackson, because I want to think positive thoughts today.

The Boilers' diminutive point guard is a great assist man (trailing only Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor among active Big Ten players), but he's never been a big scorer. But with Temple focusing its second half defensive effort on Robbie Hummel and Ryne Smith, Jackson did what you want your point guard to do in that situation: take on some of the scoring load himself.

It started rather simply midway through the second half. Jackson hit a couple of open jumpers when the Owls went under high screens, the way they had all game. But as Jackson showed both a willingness to shoot and an ability to make those shots, the defense intensified, and the degree of difficulty on Jackson's field goal attempts increased.

But it didn't matter. He hit a jumper with a man more than a foot taller than him in his face. He hit a stepback with a defender draped all over him. He powered through his defender for a layup. The buckets kept coming, and he almost single-handedly staked the Boilermakers to a nine-point lead, scoring 10 of 12 Purdue points in one stretch.

Temple came back to tie it, and Jackson put his finishing touch on his performance by driving past T.J. DiLeo, then finishing high off the glass over DiLeo and another defender while being fouled. He made the free throw and Purdue had the lead for good.

After sinking a bunch of late free throws, Jackson finished the game with 26 points, with 22 of those -- which would have been a career-high by itself -- coming in the seond half (the second half of the second half, really).

Okay, on to the officiating. Two paragraphs above this one, I mentioned a Jackson three-point play that gave Purdue a lead it would never relinquish. It happened with about three minutes left, and part of the reason that the Boilers took control of the game was because they actually got five points on the possession. On Jackson's made free throw, Temple center Michael Eric put his shoulder into Hummel to box him out, the way you're supposed to and the way everyone does on a key free throw. Hummel wasn't expecting it and fell backwards, and the outside official whistled Eric for a foul, his fifth. Hummel went to the line and made two free throws, and just like that, Temple's comeback was wasted.

If that were the only transgression, it would be worth this much play, but Eric was actually the second Owl unjustly dismissed from this game. With about five minutes to play, Kelsey Barlow dribbled hard on the right wing, and Temple point guard Juan Fernandez committed the foul, his fourth. Barlow then childishly lobbed the ball to Fernandez, and Fernandez, non-plussed, flipped it back.

There was no physical contact, no jawing that I could see. Neither player threw the ball at the other -- it was a low-speed exchange. The two guys didn't even stare each other down -- the two crossed each others' paths on the way to their respective team huddles without incident.

But the official called a double tech, anyway, and a technical foul in college is also a personal foul, which means that Fernandez was gone. And even though Temple ripped off nine straight points after that to tie the game, they definitely missed Fernandez down the stretch.

In an ideal world, sure, Fernandez would have reacted to Barlow's taunting by simply handing the ball to the official. But the instinct in that situation is to do exactly what Fernandez did and flipped the ball back. In certain instances, acting on instinct is worthy of a technical foul -- we require players to fight their instincts when the instinctual behavior is violent or overly disrespectful. But here the instinct was harmless, and punishing the guy who reacts equally with the guy who instigates the whole thing is unfair -- and especially unfortunate in this case given that it was Fernandez's disqualifying foul, though officials shouldn't be expected to take that sort of thing into account. I'd probably have let it go with a warning to both guys, although I'd love to see the instigators start getting hit for this stuff more.

First game of the year I've been upset by the officiating -- pretty remarkable, given that I've already watched a few Duke games.

Chalkboard: I mentioned yesterday in the post about the Iona game that Purdue is looking more for early offense, and it appears that without E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, coach Matt Painter doesn't think his team is good enough on either end to not try to get some easy baskets at the expense of his preferred slower pace. If I may X-and-O for a second, the Boilers got a couple of jumpers from Hummel very early in the shot clock by bringing him off a screen by center Sandi Marcius just as Marcius first crossed the three-point line. The key to the play was having Marcius set the screen on his way upcourt, rather than having him set up in the post and then pop out to set the screen. Why? Because Marcius is not a threat to score from 20 feet, and big men are taught to get back into the paint on defense. The Temple defender is thus waiting for Marcius to come to him, and he's a good 12 feet away from the play -- too far to react in time to a curling Hummel, who buried the shot.

(As an aside, there are several basketball websites out there -- The Mikan Drill and Sebastian Pruiti's NBA Playbook, to name two -- that use screen captures from TV to break down plays like this. That would certainly improve the utility of these kinds of X-and-O discussions, which I enjoy doing. Therefore, if anyone knows how to do this, please post in the comments or get in touch with me.)

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